Monday, July 22, 2019

Yup, Still There

What's still there, lurking in the dark recesses of my mind?


Two weeks ago I started to have a slight twinge in a front tooth. It got slowly worse over the next couple of days, to the point I called my dentist's office. They asked if I'm a grinder (sometimes) and whether I was wearing my night guard.

I wasn't. So I gave that a try. Seemed to help the first night.

But then over the weekend I developed a lot of tongue pain. It seemed to change a lot in character, but it definitely involved muscle pain that made it painful to eat. You don't realize how much you move your tongue while eating until it hurts to do so!

I probed a lot with my finger. Finally I probed waaaaay at the base of my tongue, between it and my jaw.


Yup, that's it.

Hmmm. Base of the tongue, you say?

Longtime readers may recall that the very first sentence I ever heard involving cancer contained the words "base of the tongue."

So, ya, I spent the weekend thinking I was having a recurrence of cancer.

And this is after years of telling people I'm cured.

I stewed.

I shared this theory with Wonderful Wife, who of course took it in stride. I planned in my head how I would contact the Head and Neck Cancer Center at Dana-Farber on Monday and try to get an appointment ASAP.

Monday I forgot. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, I had also developed a cold sore on my inner lip and two blemishes on my chin which are very unusual for me. Probing more, followed by a visual examination by Wonderful Wife, confirmed that at least part of the tongue pain was coming from a large sore on the side of my tongue.

Monday night I bolted awake with a different diagnosis: shingles. All on one side of the body, all in the same region, "tingliness" to the pain? Check, check and check.

I visited my doctor's office on Tuesday morning and it took the nurse practitioner about 60 seconds to confirm the diagnosis.

Whew. Not cancer.

This is what cancer survivorship is like. You move along in your life and everything seems normal, but that fear is just under the surface ready to pop out with the slightest opportunity.

You may remember that at one point in my journey I was elated to find out I had a sexually-transmitted disease (HPV). This time I was equally happy to have shingles.

I'm writing this on Monday two weeks after symptoms first appeared. It was quite painful all last week but managed pretty well with interspersed Tylenol and ibuprofen. Saturday it started to improve and today I am almost pain-free and the sores are healing. I'm glad that my course was brief.

I harp on readers incessantly about the HPV vaccine (and I'm about to do it some more). There's a vaccine for shingles, too. It's called Shingrix. The problem is that it is in short supply and hard to find. Every couple of months over the past two years I have thought about it and called a pharmacy or two to see if they have it available. I struck out every time. If you are over 50, I encourage you to obtain it.

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